After months of debate and constant provocations, Facebook announced that it has removed four Infowars pages from its platform, including the page of its founder, Alex Jones.
The removal came just hours after Apple announced that it would remove all episodes of Jones' popular show from its podcast platform rather than just specific, offending episodes. Shortly after, Spotify, which removed a few episodes of Jones' show last week, announced that the company would take action against the conspiracy site's entire audio catalog. In the early hours of Monday morning, Facebook followed suit, removing the Alex Jones Channel page, the Infowars Nightly News page, the Alex Jones page, and the Infowars page.
"Upon review, we have taken it down for glorifying violence, which violates our graphic violence policy, and using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies," Facebook said in a lengthy press release Monday morning.
"All four Pages have been unpublished for repeated violations of Community Standards and accumulating too many strikes. While much of the discussion around Infowars has been related to false news, which is a serious issue that we are working to address by demoting links marked wrong by fact checkers and suggesting additional content, none of the violations that spurred today’s removals were related to this."
Throughout the summer of 2018, Facebook came under heavy criticism for its decision to host Infowars content on its platform. In early July, the head of Facebook’s News Feed told reporters that Infowars was a publisher with a "different point of view" and added that the site's history of "just being false doesn’t violate the community standards." The social media giant has since clarified that it will attempt to limit the reach of content from conspiratorial or sensational news outlets like Infowars if it is deemed misleading or false.
Jones continued to test the limits of Facebook's rules with videos baselessly claiming that government officials are running pedophile rings and rants suggesting that Democrats were calling for and planning a civil war for July 4. Facebook appeared to struggle with moderating Infowars content due to Jones' ability to frequently test community standards without flagrantly violating written rules.
On a show in late July, facing intense scrutiny, Jones issued a prolonged rant against special counsel Robert Mueller, accusing him of raping children and overseeing their rape and then pantomiming shooting the former FBI director. Facebook told BuzzFeed News that the video did not violate its rules. However, four days later, the company suspended the personal profile of Jones for 30 days and removed four videos associated with both his account and the Infowars account. At the time, Facebook said that Jones' account was close to a full ban but had not yet violated enough rules to have its pages removed.
During his personal profile suspension, Jones repeatedly violated Facebook's rules, appearing to write Facebook posts and appearing in Facebook livestreams, which he hosted on other Infowars accounts. A Facebook spokesperson told the Guardian Monday morning that the decision to remove the Jones page came after "more content from the same pages has been reported" to the platform.
The decision to remove Jones' pages will likely limit the conspiracy theorist's reach — Jones' personal, verified Facebook page had nearly 1.7 million likes before its removal.
Still, the ban is a remarkable action from Facebook, which has long expressed a desire to stay away from determining which content on its platform is true or false.